6 Ways to Engage Learners with Mobile Devices

mobile devices

Guess what?  People love their mobile devices.  Shocking, right?

While this isn’t breaking news, it does mean that training participants like to have their phones and other mobile devices with them in the classroom.  And that’s thrown a curve ball at facilitators who have always subscribed to the “Please turn your cell phones OFF!” rule in the classroom.  While this has never bothered me personally, I know many learning practitioners who have really had to adapt their style with the changing times and be more accepting of participants who have their devices out during a session.

The thing is, facilitators really need to understand that a participant CAN have his/her mobile device out and still be engaged in the session.  Sometimes, even more so.  The key is to create an environment where their devices work for the session, rather than against it.  Simple enough, right?

Awhile back, I left a comment on another industry blog post asking how trainers deal with participants who bring cell phones into the classroom.  The ideas below are the suggestions I made on that post; a few of my favorite methods for engaging participants via mobile devices in various training settings – depending on your event, maybe one or more of these techniques will work for you!

 1. Twitter backchannels using hashtags – Encourage participants to tweet their “a-ha” moments and other nuggets that they are picking up during a session, and give them a #hashtag to include in their tweets. This is a great way for others to get a glimpse at the learning that is taking place, and for those who are trying to market their programs, it piques the interest of potential future attendees!  This can also extend the conversation among participants long after the event is over, and they have returned to the “real world”.  Most conferences, seminars, and webinars are using this method now, and it is a terrific way to not only link your participants, but to pique the interest of prospects for future events.

2. Survey Says!   Use a survey tool for participants to vote on issues, case studies, etc and get real-time, data to discuss during an event.  Good, cost-effective options are SurveyGizmo or SurveyMonkey.  If you’re leading an online training or webinar, take advantage of the chat and polling features many web-conferencing tools provide.  Such a simple, yet powerful way to engage your audience.

3. Leverage the Smartphone –  Send participants on a photo scavenger hunt with smartphones and QR codes.  This one is great for new hire orientation settings, allowing attendees to break into groups and explore their building, unlocking clues about departments, building policies, amenities, etc.  Need to generate a QR code?  There are plenty of sites out there; an easy one is http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ . There are many, many other uses for smartphones in the classroom…I could probably write an entire post on that alone.  (Note to self: write post on using smartphones in the classroom)

4. What about Foursquare?  Set up locations around your building on a location-based social site like Foursquare.  Employees can “check in”, leave tips and information about the site, and even compete to become the “Mayor” of the site.  This is a great long-term onboarding exercise (or for other multi-day event) and provides good discussion material for participants about the company, history, who-does-what, etc.

5. Engage your notetakers – Encourage people who have their devices on hand to make the most of them by taking notes on sites like Evernote or mobile apps like Scatterbrain or Wunderlist.  These are all free apps and allows the participants to have their session notes with them to review or utilize anytime, anyplace.  Many of these platforms also have sharing functionality, so the designated note-taker can send the transcript to other participants via email.  This is also a great “green” initiative for training departments/organizations looking to go paperless!

6. Never underestimate the power of a group discussion forum.   For organizations who do not have internal social networks, the corporate “group chat” site Yammer or Salesforce Chatter could be a good option for some organizations.  These platforms help you establish discussion networks that support link sharing, even #hashtag chats.  This is a great option to connect participants, share ideas and questions…before, during, and after your session!

So, there you go.  6 ideas that you could easily implement into your learning event.  Not all of the ideas will necessarily work for every organization or every trainer’s style.  And that’s okay!  The point is to get thinking about how you can embrace technology in the classroom, and use it to your advantage.  It will help you connect with tech-savvy participants, engage the mobile-addicted, and potentially extend your message much further than the four walls of your training room.  And how awesome is that?

What do you think?  What have you tried in your learning events?  As a facilitator, I’m always looking for new ideas, so comment, email, and tweet them to me…


2 thoughts on “6 Ways to Engage Learners with Mobile Devices

  1. Gretchen says:

    Michelle, love these ideas, glad I found your blog!- we do tours through our large facility and maybe Foursquare will help us disseminate info, get ideas. One idea we’ve used in classroom is having participants provide The Music- using the playlists, or mp3s they have on their smartphones to help energize the activities.

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